The End of EPGY--Or, One Fewer Common Core Escape Route

06/23/2015 08:44 am ET | Updated Jun 22, 2016

A few years ago, the students at the local elementary school took an exam for admission to EPGY, a math enrichment program run by Stanford University. Our son earned admission and has subsequently worked independently on online math assignments and met monthly with other students in the program.

We liked EPGY because it enabled our son to learn mathematical concepts at his own progression and do algebra work, for example, years before his classmates. And, since 1990, EPGY has a track record of preparing children for advanced mathematics courses in high school and college.

This spring, Redbird Advanced Learning replaced EPGY.

Unlike EPGY, Redbird aligns to the Common Core.

Originally designed for the most advanced learners, our programs have been formulated to help students achieve mastery of the rigorous academic objectives upon which the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are built. Our digital curriculum is purpose-built for Common Core success.

This is an unfortunate development for mathematically gifted students.

The Common Core reveals impatience with how young minds work. According to Professor Constance Kamii in a report on the Common Core math standards, K-3 students learn to think through engaging in activities and working with hands-on materials. The Common Core writers, however, view children as small adults who must explain their reasoning. Thus, young children are forced to recite "verbalisms" that please adults but do not stimulate mathematical understanding.

Across the country, many parents agree with comedian Louis C.K.'s infamous tweet: "My kids used to love math. Now it makes them cry. Thanks standardized testing and common core!"

The Common Core progression stops before pre-calculus or calculus. The Common Core goes up to about Algebra II, which means that local school districts are now experimenting with 3 in 2 sequences that compress three years of Common Core math into two so that the brightest students have at least a chance to take calculus.

According to Stanford Professor of Mathematics James Milgram, the Common Core math standards will lead to fewer high school students taking advanced mathematics and science coursework, which in turn means less opportunity to major in a STEM discipline in college.

Our concerns are not allayed when we review the leadership team at Redbird. Joe Brumfield is Vice President of Development, School Programs. Before that, he worked as Vice President of K-12 Solutions for Pearson, the international testing conglomerate that has been embroiled in controversy for its efforts to control and profit from education systems around the world.

Furthermore, Redbird advertises that it prepares children for the national Common Core tests as well as online learning.

With the impending advent of Partnership for Assessment and Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced (SBAC) assessments, new interfaces and instructional models are being introduced in Redbird Mathematics, taking advantage of new technological advances and constantly evolving classroom needs.... New developments in technology allows for greater interactivity in problems and lectures, including widgets and learning items with associated sets of instruction, helps, hints, and feedback that provide a network of instruction.

From our vantage point, Redbird is a research and development wing for education reformers to perfect online testing technology and find ways to replace teachers with instructional technology. According to Harvard researcher Justin Reich, "If you care about children having full lives in the world of mathematics in the future, then this is a terrible system."

The Redbird program has nice visuals and some of the exercises look like fun video games. The original EPGY, designed by Stanford Professor Patrick Suppes (1922-2014), however, has proven success; the Common Core math standards, primarily written by Student Achievement Partners co-founder Jason Zimba, have no such track record and have come under increasing parental and scholarly scrutiny. Now, our family must find ways to nurture our son's mathematical talents beyond the limits of the Common Core.

Over a decade ago, Deborah Meier warned that education reformers are "determined to cut off the escape valves." In the case of replacing EPGY with Redbird, they have succeeded.